Tis the season for feel-good stories. And if those stories happen to involve needy pets, ambitious youngsters and Ellen DeGeneres, well then all the better.Mimi Ausland, a 15-year-old girl from Bend, Ore. started the website Freekibble.com back when she was only 11. The concept of Freekibble is simple: Readers go there, answer a trivia question about animals, then, if they get the question right, Freekibble's sponsor Halo pet food donates 10 pieces of kibble, which will go to animal shelters nationwide.
There's no catch--no email list to sign up for, or survey to take. Simply play the game and hungry pets get to eat your winnings.
"I'd always loved animals, so when I turned 11 I decided I wanted to do more for them," Ausland tells Seattle Weekly. "I saw there was a big need for food for animals in the shelters--they just didn't have enough food to feed them. I just thought that was wrong and that I could do something to help."
Ausland says she drew her inspiration for her website from Freerice.com , a charity organization that provides--you guessed it--rice to hungry families, through the United Nations World Food Program.
Freekibble.com, although brilliant, started out lacking a certain star power. That was until none other than Ellen Degeneres (who's the co-founder of Halo pet food) caught wind of it and had Ausland on her show, then pledged her support to the effort.
Now Ausland says that her site sees about 115,000 visitors per day. She has 18,000 Twitter followers, 76,000 Facebook fans, and, most importantly, has delivered 6.7 million meals to animal shelters nationwide.
For the holidays, the Freekibble crew is going on a road trip. Dubbing it the Kibble Drop Tour, trucks loaded with food are stopping by shelters in in 11 cities around the country.
Tomorrow that tour will bring her right here to Seattle, where she'll be dropping off food at the Seattle Humane Society, which will be sharing the supply with the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society, the Kitsap Humane Society and PAWS.
"It's a great thing for holiday season," Ausland says. "We're donating four hundred thousand meals to dogs and cats. One truck is going east. One is going west west. These pets, they'll be eating so well for the holidays."